In Memory of Teunis J. Wyers, Sr.

(1901-1976)

The Wyers law firm was founded in 1926, when young Teunis J. Wyers, Sr. moved from White Salmon to Hood River with a fresh law degree from the University Washington, and “hung his shingle.” The early times were tough times economically and personally. The impact of the stock market crash and ensuing depression was softened by the fruits of a large home garden, the family milk cow, and regular hunting and fishing, and no electricity at home meant no power bill. Daughter Karen was born in 1936. When Teunis’ wife, Elinor died, he married Elinor’s kid sister, Lucile, and son Jan was born in 1939. Teunis Jr. was born seven years later.

Teunis Sr. was outspoken, a fierce champion of the underdog, and a supporter of public power. His help founding the Hood River Electric Co-Op, and service to that company as legal counsel for many years, earned whispers that he might be a communist. Teunis Sr. was a charter member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Washington, and in adult life, “went through the chairs” at the Elks Club, where he eventually served as Exalted Ruler, and the Hood River Masonic Lodge, where he eventually served as Master. He was also an active member of the Shriners. Teunis Sr. was active in the Episcopal Church, where he served as Chancellor (legal counsel) for all of Eastern Oregon for many years.

When Vada Pinson shot down in cold blood Hood River City Policeman, Ed Rondeau, in downtown Hood River, one of the first people on the scene was a kid named Hugh Garrabrant. Teunis Wyers Sr. was the District Attorney, and he sent Pinson to prison for murder, and for many years after that, there was a pistol by the headboard of the bed, just in case Pinson made good on his threat to “get that lawyer in Hood River” as soon as he got out of prison.

In 1960, Teunis Sr. was appointed as the first District Court Judge for Hood River County. He put most of his law library in storage, and gave his clients’ wills to Wayne Annala. This was significant, because in those days of minimum fee schedules (the Oregon State Bar Association’s version of price fixing) it was joked that there were two kinds of law practice: probate and crow bait.

Teunis Sr. was a fair, honest and hardworking judge. He did what he considered to be the right thing to do, often at the expense of political expediency. Many people who appeared in his court said they would much rather have been assessed a fine than to have received a tongue lashing from Judge Wyers. After only one term in office, however, a member of his church congregation, John Cushman, ran against him, and Teunis Sr. suffered a bitter defeat at the polls. This was a personal blow from which he never completely recovered.

At age 66, he set up shop again, this time in the Kier Building, and paid his secretary out of savings while he waited for the clients to come trickling back. Although the milk cow was no longer around, Teunis Sr. still had a large garden and the annual deer hunt to Mitchell to keep food on the table. Making huge sums of money or accumulating wealth was never particularly important to Teunis Sr. It was the relationships with those whose lives he touched, and the opportunity to help his fellow man which gave life meaning to Teunis Sr.

During the last ten years of his life, he saw his son Jan earn his M.S.W. at San Francisco State, serve as Juvenile Court Counselor under then Superior Court Judge Ross Rakow, enter and complete law school at Lewis and Clark College, pass the Bar exam, and win a seat in the Oregon State Senate. Son Teunis Jr. completed a hitch with the Unites States Navy Submarine service, completed his undergraduate work at U of O, and followed his brother into law school by one year, at Lewis and Clark. During the early summer of 1976, Teunis Sr. was diagnosed with cancer, and died four days after young Teunis completed the Bar exam. Although young Teunis told him he was confident he had passed, that was not confirmed until six weeks later when Oregon Supreme Court Justice Thomas Tongue called to let the old man know his kid had passed.

In the end, it was Teunis Jr. who took the call. The name was on the door and the stationery, the lawsuits were filed at the courthouse, the legal secretary, Mary Ann Hanners, was practicing law, and young Teunis was doing the best he could to look official. The rest, as they say, is history.